The question grows: should NJ reopen its parks? A former GOP governor chides his party on “abandoning” environmental causes. And, an invasive nemesis returns to SEPA.

Yup, it’s that time of year: baby goslings. These fluffballs were spotted near the Delaware River on the beautiful spring day of April 25, 2020. [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

For anyone following this news roundups on a regular basis, I apologize that it’s been a week since the last update. DelVal Outdoors is a side project of mine, and the daytime gig at the USA Today Network kind of turned into a round-the-clock job covering COVID-19 this week, so I wasn’t able to get to as many roundups as I would have liked.

Will try to do better in the future!

But enough about me. Plenty of environmental news to catch up on:

This week’s headlines and highlights

Let’s start with this op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, asking “Is it time to reopen New Jersey Parks?

I’ve been seeing an increasing amount of chatter online about the impacts of Gov. Phil Murphy’s decision earlier this month to completely close state and county parks. While townships were left to make their own decisions, many also shuttered their parks and trailheads, leaving basically no access for residents to recreate nearby, taking off even the simple joy of taking a dog for a walk at the nature trail down the street. All in the name of public health, which makes a certain amount of sense.

But with additional anecdotes of New Jersey license plates showing up at parks just across the PA border– such as the Delaware Water Gap– and reporting elsewhere suggesting the virus transmits poorly outside, I personally am really starting to question the cost-benefit ratio of such a complete shutdown. The Inquirer op-ed further makes the case with scientific arguments.

Am I wrong for leaning into the feeling that the park closings going too far? If so, please feel free to email me with the facts so I can educate myself and others (

Policy, policy, policy

Staying at the interface between the government and the outdoors, numerous other news to highlight this week.

Former Republican Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge has penned an interesting piece in The Atlantic, arguing that “My Fellow Conservatives are Out of Touch on the Environment.” Ridge argues that just two decades ago, Republicans in Harrisburg were willing and able to pass significant environmental bills, creating programs that helped with the “recycling” of contaminated land and generally supporting other environmental conservation and recreation programs.

But he argues the GOP has since lost its way, ceding ground to Democrats on clean air and water protections, as well as renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

The critique pairs nicely with news out of Harrisburg, where David Hess, former Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection secretary under Ridge, reports that Republicans are launching fresh efforts to undercut state environmental protections and programs. Through his PA Environment Digest, Hess is tracking GOP-led legislation that would block a number of environmental regulations during COVID-19, and you can read the whole rundown here.

Other governing entities have their own decisions to make. Freelance environmental extraordinaire Jon Hurdle writes in YaleEnvironment360 about how climate change could threaten major drinking water intakes in Philadelphia and the Jersey suburbs as sea level rise pushes the “salt line” up the Delaware River. Hurdle ties the issue to similarly endangered locales in Georgia, Miami, and India, and reports that policymakers seem pretty behind the 8-ball on figuring out what to do about it.

Speaking of climate change impacts, the Inquirer’s environmental reporter, Frank Kummer, gave the PADEP’s latest climate report a read this week and reports something I had never heard before: more chickens may be coming to Philly. Actually, it’s more livestock in general, as warmer temperatures may prove beneficial to animal husbandry. Read on to see why, and also educate yourself on the potential downside of such developments (hint: animals poop).

Sticking with the Philly media, WHYY environmental reporter Catalina Jamarillo reports that the city has decided to push back its plastic bag ban from this July to January 2021, another unfortunate victim of the novel coronavirus.

Go kill a species, save others

It’s mid-April. You know what that means? Time to squish some spotted lanternflies. The Inky’s Kummer reports that a U.S. Department of Agriculture worker spotted the season’s first live larvae in the city this week, right on schedule. The invasive pests, which are wreaking havoc on wineries throughout SEPA, are currently in nymph stage. So if you see the below, become the last thing it sees.

If you’re squeamish about squishing, how about saving animals instead? The Burlington County Times’ George Woolston reports that the Medford Nature Center Wildlife Hospital is quickly heading for flat broke due to a loss of revenues under COVID-19. Treating more than 5,000 animals of all shapes and sizes each year, it would be a devastating loss, as the center is still taking in animals daily. Chip in if you can.

More news and notes

And that’s the rundown of today’s environmental news in the Delaware Valley. See something we didn’t cover? Drop me a line at

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